My expat friend Julia had to go out of town for several weeks on a family emergency and was surprised to return and find a veritable mountain of laundry waiting for her. She’d expected laundry, of course, but commented that she had never realized that her husband Fred owned so many clothes. Turned out that when she left, he hadn’t. But as he ran out of clean clothes, he just kept buying more. Weeks of more.
I laughed at this story because it’s just such a guy thing to do. I emailed back that I thought this topic would make a great column about The Inexplicable Mindset of Men and did I have her permission to include this incident?
The response was instantaneous, even from the eight hour time difference in Paris:
“Do me a favor. Make Fred the focus.”
Well, I would, except that Fred just has so much company. My former husband, who had a penchant for losing things, had a similar philosophy to clothing. Why stress about where your bathing trunks are? Just buy twelve pairs. I might have been more impressed by this strategy had he ever been able to find any of them.
I put all of this under the heading of Useless Guy Tricks. The useless refers to the guy, not the tricks.
Interestingly, my second husband, Olof, has surprisingly few Useless Guy Behaviors, possibly the result of having been single for so long after his first marriage. But like all men, he is indelibly afflicted with guy-gene-pool-embedded Passive-Dependent Blindness: you know, where a person of the male persuasion is standing in front of an open refrigerator with the mayonnaise dead center at eye level and says, “Do we have any mayonnaise?”
Analogous to that is the universal male phenomenon of Ineffective Circular Search Behavior. When men lose things, they will look in three places. If they don’t find it, they will continue to look in those same three places in an endless pathetic futile loop. I can only assume this is something that developed in the cave dwelling area and became hopelessly locked into male genes. The cave wife would watch her guy circling the cave in increasing frustration looking for his club before she would step in and ask the question that became indelibly embedded in ours: “Well, where did you last see it?” He grumbles, “How would I know? If I knew that, I’d be able to find it!”
As she suspected, he left it outside the cave after he slew the mastodon. (Can he ever put anything away after he finishes using it?) She retrieves it. But does she get thanks? Not a chance.
We recently watched our friend Jeff do the twenty-first century version of this when he was searching for a DVD he wanted to lend us. After his third loop, his wife, Annie, went to have what she called “an Annie look” and came back with it immediately. Annie did a quick review of the first three places Jeff had looked and found it. A corollary of Ineffective Circular Search Behavior is that just because the husband didn’t find it there doesn’t mean it wasn’t there all along (see “mayonnaise”, above).
But as my friend Julia discovered, go away for a few weeks and leave most men on their own, and they quickly revert back to useless guy behaviors. Must be something in the Y (Why???????) chromosome. They revert to eating from the Basic Four Guy Food Groups (deli takeout, pizza delivery, Mrs. Stouffers, and grilled burgers). Despite being captains of industry, their global stewardship skills suddenly fail to extend to the operation of a washing machine that requires setting a dial to Wash and pushing a button marked Start. The dishwasher’s operation equally becomes a subject of such complexity that its interior descends into a level of green fuzziness capable of generating new strains of penicillin. Wife comes home to a house that looks like a refugee camp. Which in a sense it was.
So, Fred, you’re on warning. Next time Julia heads out of town, you’d better up your game. Because now the world is watching.